“Mail Time”- (Short Film Review)

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By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

Writer-director Sebastian Carrasco’s six minute and twenty-four second short, “Mail Time” (2016), is quietly compelling and magical. It is also grandly emotive in the manner of silent films from the early twentieth century. This sentiment is greatly enhanced, and made all the more operatic, by the remarkably stirring, uncredited score which drives every frame of the composition. Such an element is made so herculean that even mundane bits are immersed in a magnetic cinematic light. An example of this can be spied in a mid-way sequence that involves our lead, Ted (in an enactment by Timothy J. Cox that is commanding and likable as always and made all the more impressive by the performance being completely without dialogue), sitting at home. The moment conveys volumes by merely showing him smiling giddily as he watches a magician on television.

What continues to assists matters magnificently is that Carrasco has erected a screenplay which is artistic, beautifully honed, structured and contemplative. Yet, he gives Cox room to breathe and to create. Such a decision makes Ted something special. He is a hero who, like many of us, are unaware of such a stature. This is projected through the duration to great impact here solely through the lens of his everyday actions.

The narrative focuses in on Ted’s faux magician act suddenly becoming genuine. Initially, this behavior is an undertaking he has evoked to make the grinding routine of his occupation enjoyable. This is as much for his customers, the faces he sees repeatedly and to divert the nefarious man who constantly tries to rob him, as it is for Ted’s own sense of childlike wonder and awe. It is also utilized for the sake of keeping Ted’s employment as fresh and new as possible. This also mechanizes as a method to help make the transaction between mailman and customer memorable. Almost unthinkably, genuine mysticism begins to finds its way into his life. Soon the humdrum pattern of his days are anything become anything but ordinary. Ted now has now become real-life illusionist. His once banal delivery route has become a stage, a setting for truly joyous and numinous exploits.

The piece is a simple, innocent tale at its heart. It knows this on a conscious level. Therefore, it never gives into any possible inklings lesser exhibitions of this ilk may have. This would be to make the work more complex than it needs to be. That, in itself, heightens the wonderfully old-fashioned joviality and storytelling at hand. This assists in making Carrasco’s brief endeavor all the more charming.

Carrasco’s direction is equally illuminating. It is endlessly stylish and further calls to mind similar entries which are a hundred years or more behind us. Moreover, Carrasco has a sharp sensibility of pace. This effort moves along much in the manner Ted does through his day of labor here. It is briskly casual. We glide from incident to incident with sufficient time to get a strong impression of all necessary details of the situation. Also, we never assume the sensation of being pushed along doggedly to get from point A to B. Despite this, it miraculously never feels as if it lingers or any of the sequences go on longer than they should. This is a difficult and delicate balancing act in itself. It is one worthy of great acclaim. Such is one of the many astounding feats this marvel pulls off wonderfully.

Enhancing the overall prowess of this composition is Makeela Frederick. She is excellent in her small role as The Girl. Additionally, Bernardo Salazar’s cinematography is resplendent and certainly striking. Carrasco’s editing is just as impressive. Simultaneously, the sound and make-up contributions are just as terrific as the previously stated traits. These details conduct an account, stated to have a budget of only $1,000, which is pure, exuberant delight.

Carrasco opens on a loving note. He carries that ardor respectfully, engagingly until the closing credits. Such evokes an undeniably positive experience. It is one which will undoubtedly leave even its sourest of spectators in a far better mood after viewing it. That, in itself, is a rarity. This only makes “Mail Time” all the more worthy of recommendation. To its further recognition, the touches of comedy here are natural and endlessly successful. They appear as much of the story as everything else we come across. For instance, a commencing gag in the first sequence which dramatically showcases postage articles falling onto a table in slow motion, reminiscent of something one might see in a soap opera, are where this is most effective. Such an aspect only further represents the upbeat nature of the visions radiating on-screen.

It all comes together to create a tour de force. Carassco has concocted a mesmerizing opus; a well-deserved ballad to the often unsung powers of those who take up the reins of laborer dutifully. This is a stroke of brilliance. It is one that broad ranging audiences will assuredly have no problem relating to. Carassco has provided us a touching, illuminating and enchanting masterpiece. It is as much necessary viewing for the stressed out adult who is long exhausted of the repetitive nature of our quotidian doings as it is for the wide-eyed youth lurking within. Carassco has fashioned a gentle character study. It is one that hits us on a passionate level, speaks to us and makes us want to unveil the magic in our own lives.

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An Interview With Actor Timothy J. Cox

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By Andrew Buckner

Today I have the one of a kind honor of speaking with a prolific character actor, Timothy J. Cox! Welcome! Can you tell us about yourself?

Thank you so much for having me, Andrew!

When I first moved to New York City 15 years ago, all I wanted to be was a good supporting actor in the theater. I wanted to do Shakespeare, Chekov, Ibsen…the classics. I loved all of those stock characters…they were all so much fun to play. So for several years, theater is all that I did, with an occasional film job, but in those early experiences, I wasn’t terribly pleased with my work or the overall projects.

In the last 6 years though, I’ve done more film and have come to really love it. I still love the theatre and I would jump into a play tomorrow if the project was the right fit, but right now, my focus and energies are in film.

What were your earliest acting influences?

Movies have always been an influence to me. Even before I was an actor, I was always a fan of the movies, doing impressions of Brando in The Godfather for my family.

From an acting standpoint, the biggest influence on me has been the work of Jack Lemmon. Lemmon was just so familiar up there on screen, with characters that dealt with the comedy and tragedy of every day life. The average Joes. Those characters really appeal to me. Those are the types of characters that I love to play.

What are some of your all-time favorite performances?

Aside from Jack Lemmon, I am also a big fan of anything that has Jason Robards, Albert Finney, Alec Guiness, Kathy Bates, Patricia Clarkson have done. Same goes for Paul Giamatti and William H. Macy. Allison Janney is wonderful in everything she does and to me, Bryan Cranston is a God.

The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) cites you as acting in 117 different titles! That’s amazing! Where do you get this drive from?

It’s simple. I like to work and try to work as much as possible. I get an immense joy from the process and the energy of a film set, plus I learn something new with every role, even the bad ones.

What was your first acting role?

When I was in the 8th Grade, there were auditions for the school musical being held during the school day, during Math class, so I decided to audition just to get out of class. I went into the audition, with no desires or aspirations to be an actor, but the director must have seen something in me because he cast me in the leading role and 25 years later, I’m still doing it.

How do you feel you have grown as an actor in the time since?

Oh, I’m still growing. I think as actors we are all works in progress. That’s the wonderful thing about this work, you never stop learning. You can always dig a little deeper, push a little more. The challenges are what make it great.

You are also a screenwriter. Your credits in this category are the 2011 short, “The Teacher’s Lounge” and “But It’s Valentine’s Day” from the same year. Also, you were the author of the up-coming “Finality” (2016). You also were among the top billed in these works. Comparatively, what is the experience like of conjuring up a character, penning it and then bringing it to life on-screen? Do you think you were successful at portraying the individual the way you imagined him on these occasions?

It was nice to experiment with screenwriting on those occasions. Some of it worked, most of it didn’t, but I will say that I loved to have the opportunity to try. Like everything else that I have done, those screenwriting assignments were interesting learning experiences.

As I mentioned, “Finality” is your latest effort in this category. What can we expect from this undertaking?

I wrote this script a couple of months ago, after reading an article about Bernie Madoff. I wondered what his final moments, before going to prison, were like. I wondered what he felt, if anything in those final moments, so that’s where the idea for the script came from. I presented the script to Matthew and Ross Mahler of 8mm Films, who I really enjoy working with, and they liked it. We had such a wonderful time on “What Jack Built”, that I was thrilled and delighted that they were excited about the project. I’m really looking forward to bringing that one to life.

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Returning to your incredible acting abilities, you recently played the part of Dr. Bradley in a short film which struck a chord with me called “Dirty Books”. What can you tell us about this character?

Dr. Bradley is a genuinely decent man who, I think, secretly admires what David is doing in the film. David’s fighting for something he believes in. Yes, Dr. Bradley needs to maintain order, as part of his position, but there’s also a little twinkle in his eye, especially at the end of the film. I think Dr. Bradley wishes that he had the passion and tenacity to fight for something like that when he was David’s age. That was so much fun to play, so I must credit Zach (director/writer Zachary Lapierre) and Ian (writer Ian Everhart) for penning such an original script.

What was it like bringing Dr. Bradley to the screen?

Zach and Ian wrote such a great script, with characters that felt very real, so I just trusted the material. When you have great material, it makes your job as the actor much easier. You just show up, trust the material and the people around you and great things can happen.

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Another depiction of yours that was tremendously powerful was in Mark Battle’s short film, “Here Lies Joe”. In it you play the head of a group called Suicide Anonymous. His name is Bill. What can you tell us about this experience?

It’s a beautiful film; a wonderful slice of life, served up in such an honest manner by Mark and Pam Conway. I read the part of Bill and I really gravitated to him. Like Dr. Bradley, Bill is a genuinely decent man, the kinds of guys we see every day. Not terribly extraordinary men, but men who go out there in the world every day and struggle and survive through all the madness that is thrown at them. There was an honesty to Bill, a sweetness that was very easy to play. I especially loved that even though he appears in one scene, Mark and Pam made him very real on the page. He jumped off the page for me.

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You were also in the 2015 comedy from director Sean Meehan, “Total Performance”. In it you played Walter Baron. Let’s talk about this character. What was it like?

Walter is a man in a very unfortunate situation. He runs a company with his best friend and the best friend is not cutting it, so he has to fire them, but he can’t get the words together to do it. Again, something drew me to Walter. The words. The character. The situation. Another average Joe. I really like these guys. They’re very relatable. I know them very well.

I knew that the film was going to be something special and unique, as all of Sean’s films have that quality. It’s such a delightfully unique film that cannot really be categorized. It has it all and I’ve been delighted at the reaction that it has received.

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You also brought to life Mr. Bowers in Foster Vernon’s debut comedy, “Hell-Bent”, from this year. What was that like? 

Yes. I just shot that movie a couple of months ago and I am thrilled that it’s out for people to see. I worked for one day and that was a fun experience. It was great to play a real hard ass in the Jason Robards from “All the President’s Men” mold. Just a no-nonsense kind of guy.

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I also see that you have a lot of works that you are featured in that are in post-production. Can you tell us about them?

I have the film One of Too Many written and directed by Amber Robinson of Sustained Entertainment in post. That’s the first part of a two part film series that addresses the recent rise in shootings that have been taking place in the country. I will be working on the second part of the series as well in the fall.

The comedy, “Gary from Accounting”, written by Phoebe Torres and produced by Chirality Films is also in post. I had a lot of fun working on that.

Lastly, I have the magical short, “Mail Time”, from writer/director Sebastian Carrasco. Just wrapped that a week or so ago. I played another average Joe, a real mensch, who gets a little taste of magic.

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Do you have any other up and coming projects you would like to talk about?

I am in pre-production on the web series Shade, in a recurring role, produced by 1 Brain Productions. It’s a great part, so I’m excited to jump into it.

In August I will be working with writer/director John Henry Soto on the short film “And on That Day”, in a fun supporting role. John’s a great guy and I’m really thrilled that I get to work with him.

I’m also in pre-production on a zombie film currently titled Project Z working with writer/ director Daniel Pozmanter. Looking forward to working on a zombie film as I am a big Walking Dead fan.

Do you have any final thoughts for us?

Thank you for having me, Andrew! It’s been a real pleasure. Hope to have more films to share with you in the coming weeks. Thanks for your support of my work and for your support of all film.

Thank you for your time! I look forward to checking out your future works!

You can find out more about Timothy J. Cox at his actor’s site here.

Mr. Cox’s profile can be found on IMDB here.

You can connect with him on Facebook here.